I believe that the mindset can affect whether we experience fear or not. You can live in two completely different realities depending on if you feel fear or not. Fear is narrowing your perspective as if you were in a dark valley all the time. On the other hand if you have courage and take a deep breath, suddenly you see the sun, the sky and the stars and it's like climbing a mountain and being able to see the whole perspective, embrace the whole joyful experience of living. Giving a natural home birth recently helped me a lot to shift my perspective. It was the culmination of my search how not only to deal with fear but also to overcome fear.
But how do you deal with fear in the first place? How do you take this deep breath? How do you climb a mountain to see the view?
A few years ago I read a great book by Susan Jeffers. She lost her husband and she had to learn to deal with life because he couldn't protect her anymore. So she started trying different things and wrote a book called, "Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway."
When I moved from Poland to Belgium, I was in a completely new environment, even though still in the training industry. New approach, new people, and the result was that I didn't feel like the boss of my company anymore as I was in Warsaw. I was very insecure in the new environment. The only solution I came up was to do the thing anyway and it worked.
I remember one day in Bali, I went to the water park with my husband and there was a 30-meter water tube going 90 degrees down. I was really afraid of trying it and because of that I decided to do it anyway. I felt that my fear was there in my head but my body was following the instructions and going down the tube. This was the moment I realized that we don't need to be afraid that fear will stop us from doing things. We are much more than the fear we feel in our head. We can undertake any action we want and this action, not the fear, will create our future.
Now, what if you go one step further and transform the fear itself?
Let's do an experiment.
If I put a needle in my skin and smile, I don't feel the pain. I wouldn't call it pleasure but the negative experience is neutralized. Normally I would expect pain because I learned from experience that putting a needle in my skin should be painful. When I smile before putting a needle in, I'm stimulating different parts of my brain that inhibit my previous experiences with needles so I just experience the sensation without the negative expectation. If I go even further and I associate putting a needle in with something positive, a pleasurable experience, the effect of the negative skin response diminishes. So I don't perceive it as painful. I just feel that the needle touched my skin in a neutral way.
I just gave birth to a baby boy 1 month ago. From the beginning of my pregnancy many people asked me in a more or less indirect way whether I'm afraid of the pain of labor. This led me to think that maybe I should be afraid of labour because I wasn't. I did research on pain in labor and surprisingly most medical representatives and most scientific books about it assumed that women should feel pain in labor. Even in the Bible it is said that women will give birth in "pain," but if you dig a bit, the Hebrew word is not what was being translated as "pain" but "labor," meaning a hard work. It was just an interpretation of a translator. So I though that maybe this whole fear thing is just an interpretation.
Women in Africa give birth to much bigger babies naturally without hospitals and without pain than women in Europe and the U.S. And the labor is normally much shorter. How come? Is it about ethnic origin? So why would educated Afro-American women have a longer labor and feel pain when they give birth in the U.S.?
Dr. Grantly Dick-Read discovered that those women are victims of the Fear-Tension-Pain Syndrome. When we assume that something will be painful, we feel tension that results in pain. So in the case of giving birth the natural contractions of the uterus, that should be felt as strong physiological movements, become painful due to fear and tension that make it harder for these muscles to do their job. So I just gave birth and I cannot say that it was painful, but rather the intensive peak physical achievement of an athlete. It was as strong an experience as climbing Mount Everest and I felt it in my muscles and bones for the next 10 days. I gave a new life and I felt that I received a new life for myself, I climbed my mountain and saw the amazing view that changed me forever.
I was wondering in how many more situations exist where we are suffering and being blocked by negative interferences only because of our interpretation of the situation. How many times has fear inhibited you from taking action? How many times did you do it anyway but without feeling any joy doing it? Should we live in psychological pain because of fear? Or maybe fear just doesn't exist in most of the cases?
Exercise to overcome fear:
1. Sit in a meditation posture and take 5 deep breaths.
2. Now start smiling to yourself and keep smiling to different parts of your body from head to toes, to your head again until all the tension you feel melts away.
3. Keep smiling and now try to think about some negative situation from your life and start melting all the negative emotions related to it.
Do this exercise every day until you make a shift with your mindset and until you change the interpretation of a situation to a more positive one and until you find a solution for how to deal with it and solve it on the emotional and actual level.
1. Susan J. Jeffers, Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway, A Fawcett Columbine Book, 1988
2. Grantly Dick-Read, Childbirth Without Fear: The Principles and Practice of Natural Childbirth, Pinter & Martin Ltd.; 4th Revised edition edition (6 Sept. 2004)